Keep Pack Rats out of Your Car

Pack Rat Nest. Linda Morelli

Whether you own a classic Ford Galaxie 500 muscle car or a tiny trailblazing Nash Metropolitan 1500 you need to protect it while stored. Vintage automobiles have a tendency to attract homeless rodents looking for a nice place to stay.

Not only does your treasured investment provide warmth and shelter it's filled with tasty snacks. Here we'll take a look at a few methods to keep pack rats out of your car.

Our Professional Experience

We don't claim to hold any college degrees in pest control or animal physiology. However, we do have a garage with six classic cars. These automobiles haven't been vandalized by the large number of pack rats that inhabit our property. We've accomplished this great feat for over 10 years.

Furthermore, we used devices that universities and scientists have proven to be ineffective against the furry onslaught. Although our vehicles remain unharmed, we've seen firsthand what can happen to an automobile when pests move in. The picture on the left is an example of an infestation that was allowed to continue over a long period of time.

About the Pack Rat

Let us first clarify what a pack rat actually is. We are not talking about a person who hates to throw anything away and accumulates a lot of things they might not necessarily use.

We’re referring to a furry rodent that is about 8 inches long, with a hairy tail up to 10 inches long. Pack rats are mostly nocturnal creatures and will look for shelter to hide from both the elements and their natural predators.

Your Classic Car Makes the Perfect Home

A vehicle has many nooks and crannies for this highly destructive rodent to hide. You might think the interior and passenger compartments are what lure them. However, it's often the engine compartment that becomes the most attractive place to take up residence. Move-in day can often occur after the vehicle is running and then parked during the fall season.

The warmth from a recently run engine is hard to resist. Hood insulation is not only convenient but packs nicely around the indentations of an aluminum intake manifold. This area becomes the perfect master bedroom. Automotive wires, which are insulated with a substance that attracts many rats, provides the perfect snack on those long winter nights.

These annoying creatures will also chew their way through the fibrous firewalls near wheel wells and the front passenger compartment. Pack rats seem especially interested in chewing on rubber parts and water tubing. Once they have begun chewing and gnawing, it’s just a matter of time before they cause serious and costly damage.

Our Pack Rat Situation

First, we must say that we know pack rats are living among us. We see new nests built as soon as we tear them down. We've also caught them in live traps and seen their droppings around the patio area between the house and garage.

Those pesky critters keep us extra busy around Christmas as they think the lights are our yearly gifts for them to munch on. And how we have managed to keep them out of our garage and storage areas for the last 10 years is using an electric ultrasonic repellent.

Our most recent purchase, which was more than four years ago is still going strong. It's called the Bird-X Transonic Pro Pest Repeller. Since hooking it up we have not seen any pest droppings in the six-car garage to date. We consider this device a little noisy. In fact, it's the noisiest one out of the three we have in other storage areas, but not annoying enough to complain about.

Researching an Ultrasonic Pest Repellent

If you do a Google search on the effectiveness of ultrasonic pest repeller, you'll probably find this:

  • “Ultrasonic pest repelling devices have repeatedly shown to be completely useless.” -The University of Florida.
  • “Ultrasonic treatment devices (such as ultrasonic flea collars) claimed to rid homes of pests are completely ineffective.” -The University of North Dakota.
  • “Ultrasonic devices do not meet advertiser’s claims for their products.” -The University of Maryland.
  • “With proper use of rodenticide baits, there are few situations where the additional cost of ultrasonic devices is warranted.” -The University of Saskatchewan.

First of all, the rodenticide baits would not be an option for us as we have a wonderful population of horned owls and red tail hawks. These treasured guests would not appreciate the poisoning method. We have actually built owl nests to lure more of these predators to our property.

With all the bad press on ultrasonic pest control devices, we still stand by our recommendation to have one operating as protection against pack rat destruction. We also recommend never leaving any food or garbage in the garage. The residue of an empty potato chip wrapper is enough to bring unwanted guests and all their friends.

Outside Vehicle Storage Solution

What about cars parked outside of the garage you ask? Well, we just acquired another vehicle that unfortunately won’t fit inside the garage space. We use a car cover to protect it from the elements. A car cover is like a welcome sign for these nocturnal pack rats. After several recommendations from fellow enthusiasts, we purchased a Rid-A-Rat unit.

According to the manufacturer: It works on the principle that rodents are nocturnal and thereby most active at night. This unit interferes with the ordinary behavior through supplying precisely timed light bursts. These interfering lights cause rats to seek other shelter for nesting.

The Rid-A-Rat unit was easy to install inside the enormous engine compartment of a Lincoln Continental. So far, no signs of pack rat infestation in the car despite its undesirable storage location. You can learn more about the Bird-X Transonic Pro Pest Repeller on the Northern Tool website. You can also get more information on the www.rid-a-rat flashing light system on their website as well.

Edited by Mark Gittelman